Tag Archives: Japan

Bamboo and anions

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsAfter the fabulous bamboo lunch one fine weekend in Chiba, the diner owner suggested we visit a bamboo forest nearby. He said a doctor from a local private hospital recommends that his patients take a wander through a bamboo forest, particularly those who cannot get a positive diagnosis for their ills. The negative ions, anions, produced in a bamboo forest are said to be beneficial for health. It is a very popular notion in Taiwan too. For example, the Lemidi Hotel at Xitou, Taiwan, uses the nearby bamboo forest as a selling point:

The hotel is rich in anion as high as 7,000 units and can help metabolism, elimination of fatigue, soothe and calm emotions; the anions and rhythm of pleasure result in the most valuable medicine. While you are at it, you will feel more youthful and marvel at the wonders of the nature!

anions, negative ions, bambo o anionsThe bamboo forest at Damyang certainly makes a big deal about it too. At the small stone cottage that serves as the ticket office, there is a large LED display to tell the freshly arrived, among other things, the temperature, the humidity, and the anion measurement. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now anions are crossing my radar in the most surprising places and products. A quick Google search reveals websites extolling the virtues of the anions present in bamboo charcoal for bed sheets, sanitary pads, yarn, health-caring quilts, bamboo charcoal soap…. and that’s just the first page.

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsWe walked in a bamboo forest after our marvellous bamboo lunch, as recommended by the owner of the roadside diner. It is a lovely place, beside a small established dam. This bamboo forest lacked the crowds and well-trodden paths of Juknokwon and Arashiyama. It was an abandoned commercial forest by the look of it. There were a few decrepit shacks, an old kiln, and a general atmosphere of damp decay.

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsOn arriving at our next stop I noticed a slight squelchy feeling between my toes. Thinking there was some mud there, shoes were removed for inspection. Not mud. Leeches, from the bamboo forest.

The forsaken outhouse, pictured on the left, now features its own built-in bamboo hand-rail, for assisting that rise from the squat.

The best bamboo lunch

Reflecting on the recent trip to South Korea and Japan, there is one meal that is a particular stand-out for me. The meal featured bamboo in many guises. My hosts in Tokyo kindly took me about in Chiba one fine day, with a plan to eat at this roadside diner. One of the special bamboo ‘sets’ were ordered for each of us. A tray with dishes arrived. Then the rice, with bamboo of course, in its own hot-pot type bowl with rustic wooden lid.

bamboo meal, bamboo

On the tray were pickled bamboo, soup with bamboo shoots, a selection of other pickles, and a glass of plum juice, all made by the farmer who grew them. Then came the sticky potato. And the deer stew. That’s pickled kiwi fruit in the red dish.

bamboo meal, bamboo

This sticky potato dish is made from the wild tuber found in the mountains nearby. It hardly resembles conventional potato in any way except perhaps colour. Savoury flavourings were placed on top on the slimy goop in the bowl and we mixed them in ourselves at the table. Delicious. As was the deer stew. Probably the richest flavoured deer stew I have tried in Japan. Then came the bamboo tempura.

bamboo meal, bamboo

Normally I don’t eat wheat flour, but this was worth making an exception for. Perfect crispy tempura batter. Perfectly textured bamboo shoot awaiting inside.

bamboo meal, bambooIt was the Takean branch that we dined at (I think). The fridge was stocked with local bamboo shoots, and all manner of locally made pickles. The freezer stored blueberries, and more bamboo shoots from the recent spring season. The shelves displayed more local produce and products. The owner is, quite rightly, very proud of the fine quality food he uses to turn out the excellent dishes we were so fortunate to sample. He told us he makes everything from scratch. No English spoken here, and you won’t see an English menu. Take a Japanese speaker. You’ll probably need them to at least get the directions from the website.

bamboo meal, bamboo

The freezer on the left is a fish pond.


Bamboo on the Internet for June 2014 – my picks

bamboo sculptureBamboo on the Internet gets cut short this month. This particular post series is a bit fiddly to be done on a small tablet while I’m out and about in the world investigating a bamboo festival in South Korea and exploring the bamboo scene in Kyoto.

Date claimer

Entries are now open for the inaugural bamboo sculpture contest and exhibition in the delightful northern NSW town of Mullumbimby. Entries close 31 July. The competition will be judged on Saturday 6 September. Entry forms and more details can be found here.

  • The latest Lexus RX350 uses bamboo instead of wood-veneer finishes.

bamboo cat

  • A 10 metre pink cat would not normally catch my atttention. This one, however, is crafted from bamboo using 3D printing technology. It is the centrepiece for the Shanghai Design Week and is expected to remain after the exhibition closes. The Dutch creator says he was inspired by meeting some of Shanghai’s famously friendly stray cats.


  • bamboo restaurantFlavoursome chicken with fresh bamboo shoot? Delectable Naga pork ribs? In Delhi? DNAIndia reports that the Dzükou Tribal Kitchen, that features food from the mountainous state of Nagaland, is back. The decor features a small bamboo fountain, and a ceiling of dhokuwa, sourced from Assam, a traditional bamboo weave used as fences in village homes. The ingredients for the food arrive by train from Nagaland.
  • Love this. If you have to work in an office…
bamboo ceiling

Ceiling detail

bamboo ceiling





This is a factory refurbishment in Vietnam. The pliable bamboo ceiling conceals mechanical equipment and lighting fixtures.

Fresh bamboo & clear spirit

bamboo festivalFresh bamboo & clear spirit is the slogan for the 16th Damyang Bamboo Festival. The festival is planned to run over four days from June 27 to 30, from 10 in the morning to 10 at night – if you happen to be in South Korea on those dates. I will be.

The festival schedule is now posted. There seems to be something for everyone, although not necessarily related to bamboo. A multicultural joint wedding, throwing bean bag game, and a Flash Mob are just a few events planned for the main stage. Hopefully this means I’m in for a very local event.

While the stage events are not really that tempting for me, the activities, exhibits, and stores are. Damyang is the centre of the South Korean bamboo universe. That alone is reason enough for me to go. But wait, there’s more: a bamboo museum; a bamboo theme park; a bamboo park; and hot baths perfumed with bamboo. Plus, another bonus, the province in which Damyang is located, Jeollanam-do, is especially famous for food. What better place than a local festival to sample great local food and delicacies?

You can reasonable expect to hear more about bamboo in South Korea over the next month or so. I’m also visiting Kyoto, another centre for bamboo craft (and food and hot baths).


Very special bamboo rakes

kumade, bamboo rakeIs this another version of ‘boys and their toys’? Yoshimi Watanabe, the head of a minor opposition party in Japan, ‘fessed up that an undeclared 800 million yen (A$8,344,800) loan was spent on personal items, including a lucky bamboo rake.

Decorative bamboo rakes, known as kumade in Japan, are believed to confer luck on its holder. As one commenter suggested of Watanabe, “He’s gonna need that ‘lucky charm’ now to get him out of the pit he’s dug for himself.”

kumade, bamboo rakeDecorated bamboo rakes were first sold in the courtyards of shrines on festival days in the Edo period and, over time, have come to be known as good luck charms for ‘raking’ in success, wealth, safety and happiness.

There is a festival for bamboo rakes (of course). The one held at Tokyo’s Oji Shrine in early December is quite famous. Here you will find bamboo rakes decorated with lucky charms such as okame (fat-face woman’s mask), Ebisu-daikoku (one of the seven deities of good fortune), pine, bamboo, plum, crane and tortoise. Vendors cry out loudly to attract customers and they celebrate with a hand-clap when a kumade is sold.  If you can’t wait until December, you could find a Tori-no-Ichi (Rooster Fair) in November, or buy one on eBay au or eBay US.

There are other kumade too, less benign than lucky bamboo rakes. In ancient Japanese warfare a device called kumade that looks like a long-handled garden rake was used to grab the clothing or helmet of enemy horsemen to disengage them from their horses.

kumade, bamboo rakesThere is a kumade karate manoeuvre: kumade uchi, or bear hand strike, is executed with a partially clenched hand and palm, usually employed against soft tissue. A Shinob kumade is a Ninja rake: hemp rope is threaded through short lengths of bamboo and a hook is attached to one end of the rope. The bamboo pipes are transformed into a single long bamboo pipe by stretching and securing the rope, creating a collapsible climbing device. This short YouTube video shows how.

Beware folk carrying string bags of short bamboo tubes!




Bamboo on the Internet for January 2014 – my picks

bamboo portable laptop deskCult of Mac reviews the bamboo AirDesk – A laptop tray/portable laptop desk with a mouse pad, and slot for your iPhone or iPad mini.  Why only Macs?

The AirDesk would match the very stylish Chisel iPhone dock. Reviewed by Into Mobile and available for iPhone 4 and 5. Sigh (why only Macs?).

No such thing as organic bamboo fabric? This reminds me to further investigate bamboo textiles.

gucci bamboo heelsDid you like the Gucci bags with bamboo handles featured in the September version of this post? Now you can get bamboo heels to match. At A$650 a pair, much less expensive than the bag. Fashion Foie Gras described them as ” rather conservative and definitely have a party going on there from the back.”

The ever-increasing demand for PVC plastic kites is sounding a death knell for the craft of handmade kites in Hyderabad, India, according to the The Hindu.

bamboo2,500 bamboo strips dating from 305 BC, unearthed from an illegal tomb excavation in China, were donated to, and restored by, the Tsinghua University in Beijing. 21 of the strips are an elaborate multiplication matrix.

bambooMore innovative architecture from Designboom: bamboo sleeping units for an orphanage near the Thai-Burmese border. For more images and details, click on the image.

Still more from Designboom: Tranquillity in the heart of a metropolis. No, it’s not made of bamboo, rather, bamboo provides shade and shadow-play in an otherwise linear building. yutaka-kawahara-kaikouin-nenbutsudo-temple-designboom-44

More tranquillity (secular). (And more Designboom) What particular architectural elements achieve serenity for this cafe in Vietnam? Water? Bamboo? The curves? bamboo

Bamboo vinegar

bamboo vinegar

Japanese bamboo vinegar

When bamboo is heated at very high temperature in an airless vessel, it becomes charcoal.  The vapour that comes off the heated bamboo is condensed to produce a liquid known as bamboo vinegar. Bamboo vinegar is produced in Japan and is used to treat eczema, atopic dermatitis, and other skin diseases, often by just adding it to bath water. Bamboo vinegar is acknowledged as an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, but not as a salad dressing.

In Japan, bamboo vinegar is recognised as having many health benefits; eliminating foot odour, softening the skin, relieving itching and insect bites and improve blood circulation. Diluted, it’s also used as a skin toner and hair conditioner.

bamboo vinegarIn the West, bamboo vinegar is more commonly seen in form of foot detox pads. The pads are applied to the feet overnight. Bamboo vinegar detox pads score quite highly in the Amazon customer reviews. One purchaser said they felt 5 years younger the morning after a night with detox pads stuck on the feet. Another found his allergies reduced. Numerous reviewers commented on both the foul smell of the pads and the colour of pads in the morning.

One of the claims made by manufacturers of bamboo vinegar detox pads is that the pads will turn a brown colour overnight and this is an indication that the detox pads are drawing out toxins through your feet. Indeed, numerous Amazon reviewers commented on the brown gunk they found on the detox pads the morning and were duly impressed by the efficacy of the product.

bamboo vinegar

There is an article on Mercola about bamboo vinegar detox pads. A reporter used the detox pads overnight and then took the resulting gunky brown pads to a laboratory for analysis. The results established that the chemical analysis of the used pads was almost identical to the new ones. The brown gunk appears whether the pad draws moisture from a person’s foot or is held over the steam of pot of boiling water.

In its original form, medicinal bamboo vinegar was fermented for nine years. The sales script for the detox pads does not specify the age of the bamboo vinegar used for the pads. Still, the comments on Amazon make interesting reading. I do like the sound of the bamboo vinegar soap though.